If there’s one thing that hasn’t really changed in this digital world, it’s note taking.
Most of us do it at least once during our working week. Whether it’s meeting notes, planning or idle sketching (there’s nothing wrong with that), note taking is a basic form of human productivity.
If you’re looking at how to build good habits, mastering your own form of note taking is vital.
In this blog post, we’re going to look at the best note taking strategies and tools for work.
Bullet journaling combines a few things – namely a planner, journal, diary and, some would say, written meditation.
Basically, bullet journals aim to organise the absolute chaos that can be modern life into something that makes the author more productive, efficient and happy. The term “bullet journal” was coined by Ryder Carroll.
One of the best things about bullet journals is that they’re entirely personal to the owner. And, while some basic principles remain, the actual form, style and structure of your bullet journal is entirely up to you.
This has made bullet journaling a very personal, much-loved endeavour that has achieved something of a cult following. What’s more, you can get started with nothing more than a notepad and pen, but you’ll quickly find your bullet journal will evolve over time as you get more into it and more addicted to its ability to make you productive.
Although a bullet journal is principally about keeping you organised, it’s also the perfect place in which to place your notes.
Check out this great introduction to bullet journaling to get started or watch the video from Ryder Carroll below.
Pen and paper
Who says note taking in the digital age should only take place on a laptop, smartphone or tablet?
Sometimes, the oldest methods are the best and most satisfactory, and that’s why there’s absolutely nothing wrong with using an old-fashioned pen and paper setup.
In fact, if you take a quick glance around the table during most meetings or on the desks of modern workers, you’ll probably see that pen and paper is usually preferred to the digital alternatives.
Treat yourself to a well-made pen and beautifully crafted paper, and the note taking process becomes even more satisfying.
Got an iPad? Even better – got an iPad that’s compatible with an Apple Pencil? Notability really should be on your home screen, if so.
There are, literally, hundreds of note taking apps available for our tablets and smartphones these days, and we’ve picked out what we believe to be the best of the bunch today.
Notability is certainly up there in that regard. It’s a brilliant way to combine text input with drawings, handwriting, and virtually anything else you can think of while taking notes.
You can even annotate PDFs and share your notes with others for collaboration you simply can’t achieve quite as easily with a notebook and pen.
Find out more about Notability here.
“Leave paper behind,” says the GoodNotes website, and it really does have a point.
If you’d rather invest your note taking time in that of the digital variety, GoodNotes is another brilliant app that’ll make the most of your iPad – Apple Pencil or no Apple Pencil.
Notes can be filed via the handy document management system and it’s even capable of searching through your scribblings to find specific words or phrases that you want to search for.
Just like Notability, GoodNotes gives you complete freedom to readjust the layouts of your writing and drawings once they’re committed to the digital piece of paper.
Get more info on the GoodNotes app.
Sometimes, it pays to stick with the stock note taking app on your chosen device, and there’s a lot to be said for Apple’s Notes app.
Recently updated in iOS 13 and iPadOS, Notes is now a powerful way to record your thoughts and promises during meetings or while planning big projects.
Perhaps most importantly, it syncs effortlessly across all Apple devices, so you can always access your notes whether you’re on your phone, iPad or Mac.
As you’d expect, Notes works perfectly with the Apple Pencil, too, enabling you to combine text and your own handwriting, and quickly start a note by tapping the Pencil on the iPad’s lock screen.
Notes can be organised into handy folders, and, if you have confidential notes you’d like to keep hidden from the view of others, you can password protect them, too.
Whether you’re a wizard with a pen or not, Sketchnotes is a great way to make your notes far more visual and engaging.
Invented by a chap called Mike Rohde, Sketchnotes is a note taking style that combines traditional written words with imagery. As previously noted, you don’t even need to be particularly good at drawing, because, just like bullet journalling, Sketchnotes is entirely personal.
The idea is to work on a style and feel for your notes that works for you – no one else.
Sketchnotes ditches traditional note taking in favour of far more engaging pages of drawings, symbols, large typography and doodles. The idea is to create a style which enables you to look back on your notes and almost immediately take on board what’s going on.
This makes sense when you think about it; who wants to sift through acres of text to find a specific note when that vital piece of information could have instead been captured via an image, icon or doodle?
On first glance, Sketchnotes might feel rather cumbersome, time consuming and ambitious if you’re not naturally talented with a pen, but in time, they could be the best way for you to take notes and be more productive. You just need to find your style.
Find out more about Sketchnotes here.
We all have different preferred methods of note taking; what works for you may not work for a colleague or friend.
You might find just one of the methods above works for you, or a combination thereof. The key lies in maintaining a healthy, consistent approach to note taking, in whatever form you choose.
Whether you decide to go the digital route, traditional pen and paper or both, start your note taking journey now, and never look back (unless you need to refer to the notes of course!).